Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens was met with widespread praise upon its release, one of the common criticisms was that the much-hyped Captain Phasma (played by Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie) wasn’t featured much – and Star Wars: The Last Jedi is only marginally better on that front.
Captain Phasma is one of the most enigmatic characters in the new Star Wars trilogy. The Force Awakens didn’t do much in terms of revealing her backstory or motivations beyond her loyalty to the villainous First Order, which only added to her aura of mystery. Beyond her commanding voice and intimidating suit of armor, nothing was known about the person beneath that shiny chrome dome.
Interestingly, an early complaint of the latest entry in the ever-expanding Star Wars saga is that Captain Phasma is under-utilized once again in The Last Jedi. Indeed, she only appears towards the end, has a single fight scene with Finn, and is dispatched with relatively little fanfare. She’s part of Finn’s story, and doesn’t get to develop one of her own. However, that’s arguably the point of her appearance in The Last Jedi, and Phasma’s wasted potential in the movie can be interpreted as a commentary on the character’s own wasted potential.
First things, first, let’s break down Captain Phasma’s short-lived return in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Limited Screen Time
Phasma fans, especially those who devoured her novel and comic series, might be disappointed to learn that she has very little screen time in The Last Jedi, particularly considering how small her role was in The Force Awakens. However, one never gets the impression that Phasma’s part was cut down in post-production, or that she simply didn’t fit in with director Rian Johnson’s vision for Episode VIII.
The character really makes the most of her short appearance, defeating the heroes and nearly killing them before Admiral Holdo’s epic sacrifice buys them a fighting chance to survive, leading to a heated battle between her and Finn, and Phasma’s dramatic death by falling into a pit of fire in slow-motion. It’s an emotional high point of the movie, and Phasma’s presence in the Resistance’s darkest hour is indicative of the First Order’s confidence in their rapidly-consolidating power. On the other hand, she’s also present to show just how quickly their fortunes can turn to ash due to the work of selfless heroes who save the day and turn the tide in singular moments of righteous bravery.
Finn and Phasma
As previously mentioned, Phasma only appears in relation to Finn, her former stormtrooper subordinate and a reluctant member of the Resistance. They are opposite sides of the same coin, and this relationship is the key to Phasma’s character arc (or lack thereof), as well as her importance to the story of The Last Jedi.
Throughout the sequel trilogy thus far, Finn has not been dedicated to the Resistance’s goal of a galaxy free from the subjugation of the evil First Order. He just wants to get away from the conflict. In fact, the only reason he gets involved at all is to try and protect his friend and (maybe, but probably not) romantic interest, Rey. She’s the reason he leads the ground attack on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, and she’s the reason he tries to escape the Resistance in the opening act of The Last Jedi, which inadvertently leads him to his subsequent mission on Canto Bight.
By the time Finn and Phasma are face-to-face (or face-to-helmet), Finn has gone through a grand character arc; he’s seen Rose and her selfless devotion to the just cause of The Resistance, and he’s seen DJ, a cynical outsider who uses the war to make himself rich, hiding from responsibility by soullessly devoting himself to no cause greater than the next payday to be earned.
Ultimately, Finn chooses a side – he’s proud to be “Rebel scum.” The Resistance is not winning the war, but the battles are worth it since the end goal is a galaxy free from the iron grip of Supreme Leader Snoke and his The First Order lackeys.
Page 2: Why Phasma is a Tragic Character
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